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U.S. Army: “How has serving impacted you?” (twitter.com)
100 points by rahuldottech 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments



Once I realized that the United States has to involve itself in armed conflicts on a regular basis, it was eye opening.

The United States spends more money on the military than any other country. You have to take the military out to stretch its legs every decade or so. If not to prepare for war, but to keep feeding the military expenditure process.

President Eisenhower's farewell address concerning the military industrial complex nailed the course for the United States since concerning conflicts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBNmecVtdU


The U.S. also spends more money on education and healthcare than any other country. How is that at all surprising? The U.S. spends 3.1% of GDP on the military, more than the EU average, but less than Russia. Given the state of the world, where we've made an express commitment to protect the EU from Russia, that should not be surprising.

Comparing military spending as one big lump $600 billion for the U.S. versus $225 billion for the EU versus $60 billion for Russia ignores several really important things.

First, a dollar buys you much more in Russia than in the U.S.[1] Adjusted for purchasing power, Russia's defense budget is more equivalent to $180 billion: https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/05/03/ru.... (The same is actually true for Europe too. Europe's PPP GDP is 20% higher than its nominal GDP, making the EU 28 defense budget more like $270 billion U.S.)

Second, it's not unreasonable for the U.S. to want to not merely achieve parity, but have a decisive advantage. Having a decisive technological edge costs you exponentially more money. The 747 cost about $7.5 billion (in today's money) to develop. The 787 cost $32 billion. The more advanced technology cost a lot more to develop even in inflation-adjusted dollars. The same is true for all sorts of high-tech industrial equipment. The cost of a new fab tripled from 1998 to 2010: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/418576/the-high-cost-of-u....

Third, going back to Eisenhower, the cost to society of having a military scales with population. We can afford to spend $600 billion on the military more than Russia can afford to spend $60 billion. That's why it makes sense to look at it as a percentage of GDP--how much of our economic output are we devoting to the military, versus other things?

3% of GDP is higher than Europe now, but about the same as what France was spending as recently as the early 1990s: https://tradingeconomics.com/france/military-expenditure-per.... Were we talking about how French military expenditures were a mark of crazy imperialism back then?

[1] To give a concrete example, sources report that Russian subway lines cost 10-15 billion rubles per kilometer: https://www.metro-report.com/news/single-view/view/the-winne.... That’s $150-230 million by exchange rate. In the US, subway lines in SF and LA have ranged from $375-562 million per km. In New York, the Second Avenue subway was $1.6 billion per mile. You’d never compare New York’s or SF’s subway budget with Russia’s without accounting for that.


Well said, I’ll refer back to this.

Also, the U.S. underpins the existing economic system. That costs


the US could spend significantly less and achieve that goal. Russia has a much smaller population and GDP per capita, and Western European countries aren’t spending nothing.


That twitter thread is a complete disaster. The thread asks how has serving in the US Army impacted you, and instead they get a bunch of attention seeking people who have never served.

This is a perfect example of why social media increases depression and isolation.


I'm sure the original tweet didn't intend it, but effectively it did ask everyone how it impacted them, direct or indirect.

> instead they get a bunch of attention seeking people who have never served

That's a bit harsh. Seems many of the people writing in that thread have relatives that did serve, but now are unable to tell their own story, for one reason or another.

I'm glad people are telling their stories about it, but you're probably right as well that social media might not be the best area to drum that up, as it's hard to have real conversations about whatever subject.


I think you are highlighting a more fundamental issue with social media: it's impossible to separate signal from noise.

On one hand, OP is almost certainly right about attention seeking, and I'd go as far as to expect that many of the stories are outright fabricated. There is a well known (and growing) phenomena of military imposters that falsely claim service [1], and the secondhand stories here are even harder to verify and present a clear motivation for falsehood.

On the other hand, there is also plenty of evidence that growing PTSD rates [2], and overall worse outcomes [3] for service members, is a real phenomenon. The true stories here that deserve analysis will have to compete with other stories that angle towards particular or personal ends.

End result: every viewer sees plenty in this thread to confirm their own expectations.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/aug/21/usa.internatio... [2] https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwij... [3] https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwic...


I served, Air Force. My experience was neutral, I'd weight it around 70% positive, 30% negative, and I'll probably never take the time to go into the details. It would take me a year+ to string my service-related experience journal entries together and I've honestly already exhausted myself bitching about the USAF/VA/DoD/Pentagon and the way they treat enlisted folks, especially our Reserve units during OEF/OIF, and our veterans.

My Uncle served, Marine Corps and then Army and he retired CW4. He died young of horrible cancers, we contend, most likely, though no one can prove it now that he's dead and forgotten, due to exposure to Agent Orange in-country in Vietnam. He spent the last ~10 years of his life fighting the VA.

My father served, Navy, he's a disabled veteran who has had the majority of his insane health complications linked to Agent Orange exposure in-country in Vietnam. I had to take 2 years off of my life to, among other things, help him fight the VA to get disability status and to get his disability / health complications service linked. The VA is still jacking him around today. He, and his cohort, have a mantra that they operate on. "Delay, deny, and hope that we die." That's how Vietnam veterans have been impacted by serving.

My brother served, Army, 10th Mountain. He had an equipment malfunction in Haiti _destroy_ his left ankle and, many surgeries later, still cannot walk properly. As a civilian, he was a line cook, then a sous chef, then a chef. He then fell in with a group of serial restaurateurs. He has spent his life on his feet in pain. He's also had to spend a ludicrous amount of time fighting with the VA.

This is a small sampling of the men in my life who have been impacted by serving. I'd say, overall, no, my family has not been impacted well by serving. And we've overwhelmingly not been served well by the US Government and VA upon separation or retirement.


Disclaimer: Austin Cheney works for the US Army.


Where are the positive impacts? I'm not a Twitter user, so I'm wondering if it uses a voting scheme to float "popular" responses to the top. Or are there really no positive responses?


How do you imagine a dead soldier writing a reply?


Congratulations, you did a fantastic job of ignoring the responses of people who did serve, so that you could dunk on “social media”.


I hope no new generation will grow up without realizing how horrible war is.


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

- Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), published 1920


Wonderful. I had forgotten this from my childhood.


You know what's more horrible than war? Not being able to wage war. I'm from a country (Bangladesh) that fought a war, in which about half a million people died, to free itself from Pakistan, which was treating us like second-class citizens. In doing so, we were able to separate ourselves and plot our own course. And lucky for us--as theocracy has overtaken Pakistan, Bangladesh went from being significantly poorer than Pakistan (40% lower GDP per capita) to catching up and on a path to overtake. Not to mention, being a (relatively) freer society. War is a fundamental tool in the exercise of self determination.

Most people who talk about how "horrible war is" have never been in a context where killing or being killed is preferable to the status quo.


And yet war is still terrible, and people should know it, even if it's sometimes less terrible than the alternative. The choice should be made with eyes wide open, not lulled into its fangs unbeknownst.


I always wonder why did they go ahead with the idea of being a part of Pakistan in the first place, especially when their ties to the language was stronger and older than ties to a religion/politics. Was autonomy out of question ?


At the time, East Bengal was almost completely agrarian, and highly dependent on the industrial centers in West Bengal (which went to India), and Pakistan.


I see, that does make sense. Best wishes for Bangladesh want to visit sometime.


Defending or fighting for independence seems quite different from imperialism.


I can’t tell if you’re calling for an end to war or for keeping it around so that we can show it to people as a reminder of how horrible it is.


War memorials and museums should include as many depictions as possible of the horrors of war, including sounds and smells, to better vaccinate new generations against it.


Plenty of countries manage to conspript pretty much everyone at a certain age. Train them and let them home without having a special problem with them. Now what is the US army doing during training/stateside service?


Most of these Tweets seem to be about experiences from operations. Most countries never deploy on operations. Fewer deploy on expeditionary operations. Even fewer do so at the intensity of the US. You’re not comparing something equivalent.


I think it is two things. The first is that everyone goes into the military for four years or something like that (Ex: Israel), so it is a shared cultural experience that everyone understands. Second, while some of those soldiers see conflict, the scale is much less than something like Vietnam where entire graduating highschool classes of boys were wiped out and the war wasn't popular and it wasn't a defending our country in the normal sense, but a proactive war to help curb Soviet expansion. Afghanistan and Iraq have Veterans in a similar (if less extreme) circumstances. The war is a geopolitical policing act and extension of US foreign policy at this point more than an actual defend the nation type situation. I've never served, but to go through all that and then have issues and have to jump through hoops at the VA would be crushing.


> four years or something like that (Ex: Israel)

Israeli conscription is mandatory for adult citizens on or about their 18th birthday with a service obligation of 3 years for males and 2 years for females, but you can defer service until after completion of undergraduate education for 6 years as an officer.


Thanks for clarifying! I knew I wasn't very far off.


US seems to be pretty terrible but that does not mean that draft service is/was OK in other countries.

Stories of abuse during draft service were so common in many countries that people normalized them.


If violent conflict or the threat of such is one of the unspoken means of creating artificial demand that props up parts of ones economy this should not come as a surprise.

'Soldiers' are low level resources to be turned over into a different kind of wealth. Sooner the realization dawns the better for those who are left behind with the shorter end of the stick, with or without some shiny pieces of metal.


When thinking about the benefits of the military it is appropriate to ponder the broken window fallacy [0]. Economically speaking, building a rocket and blowing up a foreigner is strictly worse than paying everyone in the economic chain the same amount of money and using the raw physical resources of the rocket to do something else.

So for military action to be rational the troops need to be securing access to foreign wealth/raw resources, or dealing with a somewhat imminent threat from people who want to break and steal stuff from the military's sponsor.

The opportunity cost of the military is huge. Artificial violent conflict/threat thereof doesn't prop up anything on its own, the military doesn't generate wealth in and of itself.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window


> So for military action to be rational the troops need to be securing access to foreign wealth/raw resources, or dealing with a somewhat imminent threat from people who want to break and steal stuff from the military's sponsor.

That's not a complete list. For example, one of the key functions of the U.S. Navy for a long time was suppressing piracy, which hindered overseas trade. It's basically a policing function--keeping things stable to enable commerce to happen. The function of the U.S. military today can be seen as an outgrowth of that.

We don't care about terrorism because we want their resources or because we think they'll take our resources. It's because terrorism is a threat to a world order that is very beneficial for us. The cumulative economic cost of 9/11 globally was estimated at up to $2 trillion: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-world-after-911-part-....


Then why are you calling it 'policing' when you seem to be quite aware that it is imperialism by violence. I dont think the distinction is subtle.


Calling U.S. military efforts "imperialism" is a rhetorical technique that does more to obfuscate than illuminate. Policing is more accurate than imperialism. Imperialism historically refers to directly taking control over other countries, often for purposes of diverting resources from the vassal states to the empire. What the U.S. does is materially different. We didn't go into Iraq and make it a province of the U.S., shipping oil back to the U.S. (Note that I was against the Iraq war. I think it was a waste of U.S. money. But calling it "imperialism" is lazy rhetoric.)


That seems an overly narrow definition that conflates the 'thing' with the means of achieving the 'thing'. The British empire was softer than most that came before it or where its contemporaries (Belgium say). It would not have been very hard to define 'imperialism' in a way to exclude the British but apply to the others. US is not an empire in the same mould as that of the British but essence remains the same.

As for policing goes the subjects signed up for it even if that wasnt individually.


> No, you're the one conflating the two. The end result is different. For imperialism, the result is a country under the political control of a different country, or giving up its resources to another country. The end result with U.S. policy is that maybe you end up with a different (often more democratic) regime. The means is similar: foreign military excursions and direct interventions into other countries.

The end result with U.S. policy is that you end up with a different regime that's more likely to trade with and have friendly relations with the U.S. There's definitely an economic reason for U.S. intervention


Historically, the goal has not been to ensure that you have a regime that's more likely to trade with the U.S., but to ensure that your regime doesn't interfere with neighbors who are trading with the U.S.


No, you're the one conflating the two. The end result is different. For imperialism, the result is a country under the political control of a different country, or giving up its resources to another country. The end result with U.S. policy is that maybe you end up with a different (often more democratic) regime. The means is similar: foreign military excursions and direct interventions into other countries.


> The end result with U.S. policy is that maybe you end up with a different (often more democratic) regime.

I believe the Iranians would like to have a word with you.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27%C3%A9...

I am looking forward to understand from you which part of your

"For imperialism, the result is a country under the political control of a different country, or giving up its resources to another country."

does the CIA sponsored coup against fledgling Iranian democracy not fit.

> No, you're the one conflating the two. The end result is different.

... like pressuring India to loosen its standards for agricultural seeds so that US companies can flood the huge market with theirs that have germination rate of 65% whereas the indian minimum standard was high 90%. Free trade when it is beneficial to US companies, protected if not, or else regime change.

... like forcing India to remove the separation of investment banking and consumer banking. These dont look any different from forcing ones way into markets and access to resources that they would not have achieved otherwise.

... like locating dangerous chemical plant with safety mechanisms deliberately omitted to cut cost that otherwise would not have been possible in their own country and using that to post higher profits (at the expense of locals bearing the brunt of the Bhopal disaster).

I dont perceive the difference that you are trying to point out. Unless you really believe the point of the ladt iraq war was spreading democracy, if you buy that I doubt we would gain much by a conversation.

EDIT: I am intrigued that this hasnt been responded to for an hour whereas responses were pretty quick before.


> I am intrigued that this hasnt been responded to for an hour whereas responses were pretty quick before.

Without taking sides (I haven't read the whole conversation), I should note that HN has a "cool-down" feature:

"there is a delay before the reply link appears on deeply nested comments, in order to create drag on flamewars."

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=880844 (pg is the creator of the site)


Yup I know. I meant time after the appearance of "reply" link. I have interacted with rayiner before and find him rational so was curious about how he thinks abut the things I had pointed out.


It is indeed worth pondering over, sooner we start the better. Its also a complicated affair: there is the aspect of distribution of taxes to cronies, there is creation of artificial demand, there externalities like people subsidizing the war by putting their own wellbeing on the line, may be for a shot at citizenship - thanks to selective service and poverty draft


"rational" "securing access to ... resources" "opportunity cost"

All this phrasing hints that human beings are, or should be, purely rational and profit-driven robots without any social, ethical or moral value.

There's a word for this: sociopathy.


Is there any evidence that the people who make decisions that involve thousands, if not millions, of purposeful deaths are not sociopaths?

At that scale the people who don't think in sociopathic terms will struggle to make decisions. How does someone purposefully cause even 1 death while reflecting on the general wonder of life? They'd have to be stupid. Anyone who wasn't thinking in sociopathic terms would have to choose 'more negotiation' and 'do without' over military engagement. And that isn't what happens in practice.


Huh?


I have similar thoughts but state them rather more bluntly, that the US military is 20%~ a program for national defence and 80%~ a socially acceptable public-jobs program in a society which is phobic of "socialism" but nevertheless needs wealth-redistribution in the economically productive forms of education and life-experience/connections for those involved in order to thrive on the macro level.


It's wealth redistribution all right, but it distributes wealth to the top: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket


Yes selling weapons is profitable. But if your own country is at war with an equally strong opponent, then its not. Economy is in shambles for both players no matter who wins. Also tax rates during war time are really high.

Wars and other catastrophes are equalizing wealth distribution and are not distributing wealth to the top.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/02/scheide...


History shows that many people made rich by war were able to buy their way into a neutral country and live safely.

Borders do not apply to very rich people.


You are right about the person itself. But their assets are often hard to move.

I just dont think that rich people in general have an interest in a (serious) war.

I rather think conflicts are used to distract from other problems and create "unity". But not with the goal to make money. Obviously some peope will try to profit from it while its going on and some will also lobby for new ones. I just dont thinks that this influence is that big


> an equally strong opponent

describes a small fraction of the conflicts the US was involved in in the last 100 years.


True enough, but that fraction has the biggest impact though.


I served in the Air Force, not the Army.

My service is what paid for college, and led to a satisfying life. I had a large family, and without the USAF I'm not sure I would've been able to afford school. It also gave me time to mature between high school and college.

It worked very well for me.


not US, but EU country before military changed to fully professional (now it may be different):

1. I value my personal freedom much more than before serving being wheel in this whole mechanism

2. I became expert in faking/pretending to work

3. I had problem to say sentence without swear word, but this disappeared after few weeks/months when you need to be conscious about it

4. it took also few weeks to so picking up phone or even home telephone with Private XY receiving

5. and I lost any ideals about military, it's (was) bunch of drunks, every single office you came open bottle

6. I enjoyed using catch 22 logic as clerk when reasoning about some issues, that book really accurately describe military


The United States is perfectly willing to have a program that pays unskilled high school graduates with no family resources a good salary, houses them, sends them to college, and gives them physical and mental training—as long as there's an elevated chance of the youth in this program being killed or injured. My church recently had a young homeless guy come by and join the community for a bit before deciding that his only chance in life to get out of his situation was joining the army. I don't know if we'll see him again.

We have the money for all sorts of "socialist" programs like free college and a safety net for youth. But how, politically, do we make the decision to decouple it from inflicting violence on those youth?


The US makes living difficult for the poor so that they think joining the military is a good choice. If homes were affordable, if college was affordable, if healthcare was affordable, nobody would want to join.

We force poor people to join so that we'll have a military. We have wars to justify having a large military. We have a large military so that we'll purchase a lot of military equipment. We purchase a lot of military equipment to fuel the economy in specific congressional districts. We prop up those districts so that the people there have jobs and will reelect their representatives. Even the politicians who seem to support the "socialist" programs have no intention of following through with their promises.


Not just poor people there are those who are trying to obtain citizenship. Poverty draft and selective service is real


The opposite is true. Life is so difficult for poor people that they are willing to go get killed or go to prison rather than starve. Especially if they have medical needs.

> We have the money for all sorts of "socialist" programs like free college

Most "developed" countries have free healthcare. Many have free or almost-free college.

The US is by far the less "socialist" society among wealthy countries.


From Twitter's rules: "You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes."


Twitter's rule is poorly worded. Violence is one of the most basic interactions between organisms on the planet. Not only between societies (so that an Uber driver earning $30,000 can be in the top 1% globally), but within societies (the threat of violence is what makes everything from paying taxes to policing work).

What Twitter really means to address in its rule isn't "violence" but rather "violence outside the accepted rules for when violence can be used." But fuzzy thinking has caused it to bury the concept in a nonsensical universalism.


I actually agree that @USArmy shouldn't be banned from Twitter--I have nothing but respect for those who serve. But I also think that a literal, objective interpretation of Twitter's rules would result in a ban. Really this just shows how subjective Twitter's enforcement of the rules is.


> Violence is one of the most basic interactions between organisms on the planet. Not only between societies (so that an Uber driver earning $30,000 can be in the top 1% globally), but within societies (the threat of violence is what makes everything from paying taxes to policing work).

That may work as polemical statement but is utterly disconnected from the reality of how power and society actually work. No, you are not kept in your place bc of the threat of violence. The law works only because so many comply with it despite the lack of coercive capacity instead of because - the justice system is simply incapable of policing everybody. We need to acknowledge the role of disciplinary power and biopower. For example, we self-discipline being subject to hierarchical surveillance, normalizing judgment, and examination, and also the productive. You don't run around naked outside, because the police could ticket (or, re violence, jail) you for public indecency, but because you dear the judgment of your peers, the potential loss of access to opportunities etc.


A very common misconception is that the US Army goes to war because it wants to. That is simply not how it works. The US military, unlike most other countries, are 100% under civilian control. This is a safeguard the Founding Fathers put in place to prevent a military coup, and a military dictatorship. That civilian control I refer to is of course the politicians elected into office by The People.

War is means to an end, and that end is a political one.

If you can diplomat your way to your political goal without the need for violence, then that is awesome and should always be the first option over bloodshed.

When the US Army fought the Nazis and imperial Japan, were they “promoting violence against civilians to further their causes”?


> When the US Army fought the Nazis and imperial Japan, were they “promoting violence against civilians to further their causes”?

I don't think you can say the US Army is promoting any violence against civilians, but it is harming civilians, even though it's not promoting that.

Copy-pasting from a previous comment (made by me):

> Here is a list of engagements: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_mili...

> Taking "2017 Shayrat missile strike" as a random example (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Shayrat_missile_strike) shows that specific mission had at least 9 civilian casualties.

> So even if not intended, the US army are in fact using violence against civilians (like probably most armies in the world)


Do you have evidence to qualify that somebody is promoting violence against civilians?


The verbage is 'use or promote'. The US Army literally blew up civilians with bombs for years after 2001.

I see why they'd be excluded from this rule. And I don't really care to put my opinion forward here.

Perhaps other verbage in their TOS excludes entities like the US Army.


The word promote means something similar to advertising or encouraging, as in intentionally marketing. I understand the context of your comment, but I don't think that context fits this particular word. Blowing up civilians is a prosecuted crime, which indicates something different than encouraging or advertising.

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/promote


Absolutely. I was only pointing out the use rather than promotion because there was an 'or' between the two. I can't prove promotion of violence, but I didn't think I needed to.

It's mostly interesting to me to consider what the rules actually mean, and why they're there. It's clearly not intended for entities like the US Army, but why? Why leave the TOS so vague on an important topic? I guess it's just a blanket to cover any appearance of condoning terrorism on their platform.


There is reason to be confused on this matter. The military has the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prosecute soldiers for crimes on the battlefield and it is thoroughly exercised. UCMJ does not apply to contracted mercenaries or service members assigned to special operations units though, which blurs things for outside observers.


You mean beyond the simple fact that the Army has killed millions of them?


Yes, I was asking for actual evidence.


Here is a list of engagements: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_mili...

Taking "2017 Shayrat missile strike" as a random example (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Shayrat_missile_strike) shows that specific mission had at least 9 civilian casualties.

So even if not intended, the US army are in fact using violence against civilians (like probably most armies in the world)


> use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes

Last week's tl;dr:

    Iran should be wiped off the map
      -- President Trump
I'm pretty sure genocide falls under violence to further his cause




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